Healthy Places and Healthy Regimens: British Spas 1918–50

  • Jane M. Adams


This chapter considers the use of climate and mineral waters for health maintenance and medical treatment in early twentieth-century Britain. These agents have been used since antiquity in a changing set of applications and therapies available at spas, and were increasingly exploited in Britain from the sixteenth to the mid-twentieth century.1 However, their use declined dramatically after the end of the Second World War so that by the end of the twentieth century the specialised bathing facilities at British spas had all closed and spa treatments were no longer provided by the National Health Service (NHS).2 Although a ‘spa’ industry continues to flourish, this is associated with leisure and beauty rather than health, and little emphasis is placed on the value of naturally occurring mineral-rich or thermal waters. This situation contrasts with approaches in some other European countries, notably Germany, where spa treatment continues to be available at specialist health resorts and active treatment under medical supervision is funded by the state healthcare system.3 This chapter explores the background to current attitudes towards the use of climate and waters in Britain by examining ideas and practices in the interwar period and the attempts made to promote spa therapy to the public, the medical profession and the newly formed Ministry of Health (MH). The final section considers the factors that contributed to the decline in the use of spa treatments by the NHS.


National Health Service National Health Insurance National Health Insurance Scheme Health Resort Interwar Period 
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© Jane M. Adams 2012

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  • Jane M. Adams

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